Playing childhood best friends Scout and Dill in Broadway’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Tony Award winner Celia Keenan-Bolger and Tony nominee Gideon Glick became family. And, of course, when Glick married his husband Perry Dubin, Dubin then became family, too. And when the coronavirus pandemic struck, Keenan-Bolger felt desperate to take care of Glick and Dubin, a physician at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital in New York City.
Keenan-Bolger thought back to a moment of personal heartbreak, when her mother was battling cancer and their community started a meal train to provide food for their family. “As soon as I started hearing about these hospital care workers and the hours that they were working and that their access to healthy food was so limited I was like: Meal train,” says Keenan-Bolger.
After reaching out to Glick and Dubin, Dubin said that his friends and colleagues in emergency rooms and ICUs are in greater need of meals than he was, and that’s when the network of NYC physicians led them to Bellevue. Glick, Keenan-Bolger, and writer Victoria Myers teamed up to found the meal train #BroadwayFeedsBellevue, providing meals to the 20 doctors and nurses on the 12-hour night shifts in the ICU at Bellevue Hospital.
The trio can’t help but feel that the beneficiary of their work is serendipitous. “Bellevue is a hospital that doesn't turn anybody away,” says Keenan-Bolger, “and because they were one of the hospitals that had the most AIDS patients during the AIDS crisis—so much of our community was affected by the AIDS crisis—that that's the place that we get to sort of put our energy into... I was like, ‘It feels so right.’”
What’s more, the meal train provides healthy options and supports local businesses by ordering food from four restaurants (Westville, Ruby’s, Taim, and Village Den) in the Bellevue area. “We were really excited about the idea of using neighborhood restaurants as a way to feed them, thus we can use all these funds to keep neighborhoods alive by using the local restaurants,” says Glick.
From the seed of Keenan-Bolger’s idea, Myers created the site where people can donate to sponsor a meal (details here) and Glick orders the food (48 hours in advance) and coordinates the rendezvous between the delivery person and the hospital employee outside of Bellevue.
Glick says he’s “making it up as we go along. And then I realized, 'Oh my God, nobody knows what they're doing because every, nobody's been in this situation before.'"
“Our community is so good at getting sh*t done,” says Keenan-Bolger. Adds Glick, “It makes me very moved to be a part of the community and to see how Broadway can also—and this was what Celia was really concerned with—get even beyond just us and how can we relate to the outside world beyond just theatre.”
#BroadwayFeedsBellevue has already raised over $100,000 and is booked to sponsor meals through May 14—thanks to donations from individual members of the Broadway community. But the team knows the need extends beyond that date, as well as to other reaches in the hospital. “As we set up a structure that feels like it can be replicated throughout the hospital—like right now, we're only feeding the ICU—I think the dream would be to reach many more, not just like healthcare workers, but also people who are cleaning the hospital, who are working in the cafeteria, all of the essential workers who are putting their lives at risk by showing up at a hospital every day and serving New Yorkers,” says Keenan-Bolger.
Glick says that beyond more donations, they are looking for more point people inside Bellevue to ensure the food reaches employees each night and, hopefully, expand in this way. Not to mention, Glick hopes this inspires communities outside of New York City to begin meal trains for their local hospitals (whether organized and sponsored through online donations, or the old-fashioned way of making a casserole and dropping it off).
From costumers sewing masks and tailoring medical gowns to actors providing meals to healthcare workers, it does seem we learn of a new need and a new way to serve with each passing week.
“I remember hearing someone speak once and they were like, ‘The personal is political,’” Keenan-Bolger says. “Perry is the whole reason that we started this whole thing. For me, I was in despair about Gideon and Perry and I was like, ‘I can't think about any of this without thinking about my friends.’ There are many way this can be morphed into service.”
To sponsor a meal or contribute to a meal sponsorship with #BroadwayFeedsBellevue visit MealTrain.com.